Central Ohio winters have a fairly formidable reputation. One day, the temperatures will be in the 40’s, and the next, suddenly below zero. Living in Columbus winters, we spend most of our time indoors.
Did you know that too much time indoors can actually be hazardous to your health, in a way you may not think about? Indoor air can be toxic, much more than outdoor air. During the winter, air doesn’t circulate much because we don’t open our windows and doors much because of the loss of heat. This buildup of stale indoor air can lead to all sorts of issues.
But what’s a homeowner to do to freshen the air in their home?
Why is Indoor Air So Toxic in the Winter?
As the saying in Ohio goes, “if you don’t like the weather just wait. It’ll change.” Obviously, we can’t do anything about winter weather conditions. All varieties of storms come and go in Columbus area – from rain to “wintry mix” to full blown snowstorms and blizzards. And it sometimes seems to go on forever.
During all of these outdoor weather events, most of us are holed up indoors, running furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, even space heaters.
If you’re like my wife, you’re also burning candles, or using air fresheners. She also uses common household cleaning products. Fortunately, nobody in our house smokes, and most people tend to smoke outdoors now to avoid the stink.
Every single one of these activities emits particles into your indoor air supply, contributing to the toxic mix.
Since the energy crisis of the 1970’s, most new homes have been built air-tight. So are most office buildings. By design, air only comes in or out of the structure through HVAC equipment. This is great for energy efficiency but horrible for indoor air quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists a number of common indoor air toxins that can cause health issues:
- Combustion sources, including tobacco, wood and coal heating and cooking appliances; gas furnaces; space heaters
- Cleaning supplies, paints, insecticides and other commonly used products
- Building materials, releasing toxins as they age (like asbestos)
- Naturally-generated pollutants, like radon gas, mold, and pet dander
- Chemical air fresheners, cleaning products, adhesives, personal care products, candles
- Allergens like dust mites, pet dander, mould spores, fungi, bacteria, viruses and pollen.
Although we use many of these chemicals and we have our pets in our homes year-round, it’s the lack of ventilation and filtration during the winter months that decreases the overall air quality in our structures.
Filtration and Ventilation
Filtration is defined as keeping our indoor air supply fresh by removing airborne toxins.
Ventilation is defined as keeping your indoor air fresh by continually moving, or replacing, stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air.
The combination of filtration and ventilation are the ultimate way to purify, and de-toxify, your home’s indoor air. Really, at any time of the year, but especially important during the winter season (because of the buildup of the toxins listed above).
Options for Ventilation
During the winter, just opening a window or door isn’t practical for ventilating your indoor air, especially with the sustained cold temperatures we experience in Columbus. Following are some strategies for adequate ventilation in your home in winter.
- Reverse ceiling fan direction There’s a tiny switch on the side of most ceiling fans that reverse the direction of the fan. This pulls the cold air upward and pushes the warm air downward, ideal for winter months.
- Kitchen Range Hood Fan When cooking, be sure to use the range hood or kitchen exhaust fan to remove potentially toxic stove and oven fumes. Even if your hood isn’t ventilated outside, it still filters the air.
- Bathroom Exhaust Fans These fans are designed to exhaust moist air from showers and baths to the outdoors, to reduce humidity build-up and avoid mold and mildew creation.
Options for Filtration
Obviously, the main goal for any filtering system is to purify the air by removing any airborne allergens, irritants and toxins.
There are a number of strategies for filtration in your home during the winter:
- HVAC Filters Choose HEPA-rated filters that provide fine particulate filtration, removing even the smallest of particles (particularly important for pet dander and dust mites). Filters have a MERV rating between 1-20, with the higher number offering more filtration. You have to have just the right balance, however, because having too dense of a filter can cause your furnace blower motor to work harder, potentially wearing it out earlier than normal
- Replacing Filters We recommend replacing filters at 60 to 90 day intervals, more often during winter, especially if you have pets or people with breathing issues (like allergies or asthma).
- Electric Air Filters You can also install a whole-house electric air filter on your furnace that uses an electric charge to attract and remove particles from the air.
- Portable Room Air Purifiers these can be a great choice in small spaces (like bedrooms), especially for someone with allergies or asthma.
- Humidifiers A whole-house humidifier can work to keep your home’s humidity at the proper balance. Too much moisture results in mold and mildew creation, not enough can cause sinus and other health issues.
How We Can Help
Our team offers a wide array of routine maintenance services for your heating and cooling system, allowing your family to breathe safe, clean air year-round. We also offer a number of add-ons to your HVAC equipment that can improve your home’s IAQ, such as electrostatic air filters, whole-house humidifiers, duct cleaning, and more.
Schedule an appointment for your routine HVAC system maintenance with us today by using our online contact form, or call one of our seven neighborhood offices listed below. We pride ourselves on our customer-focused service, and our reviews show it.
Dor-Mar…Your Climate Hero!